A Good-Natured Map of Alaska Showing the Services Offered by the "The Alaska Line"


This map, published in 1934 for the tourist market with colorful images and motifs, shows various shipping routes of the Alaska Line, which had a near-monopoly at that time on maritime transportation in the region. It also shows key interconnecting routes such as the Alaska Railroad, White Pass and Yukon Railroad, and Richardson Highway. The Alaska Steamship Company, known informally as the Alaska Line, was formed in 1894 by a group of frontier businessmen. Initially intended to service the fishing industry and passenger traffic, by 1898 and the onset the previous year of the Klondike Gold Rush the line was focused on transiting prospectors and mining cargos. As the boom-and-bust cycle of the gold rush moved west across Alaska, the Alaska Line established regular routes to the Bering Sea, the mouth of the Yukon River, and Nome. After diversifying its operations to serve other sectors of the economy, including salmon canneries and new missionary settlements, the Alaska Steamship Company was acquired by the Alaska Syndicate in 1909. The Alaska Syndicate, funded by J.P. Morgan and Solomon Guggenheim, merged its Northwest Steamship Company with the Alaska Steamship Company. The combined entity continued to grow under the latter’s name and eventually benefited from an essential monopoly of Alaska freight and passenger service after passage of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act). The Alaska Line subsequently became a major intermodal transportation company, with services across Alaska and the Northwest Coast. Following the U.S. government requisition of company ships during World War II, the Alaska Line regrouped in 1945 and turned to container service and tourism amidst greater rivalry from air and trucking interests in the postwar period. Nevertheless, by 1971 increased air services for passengers and cargo competition drove the venerable line out of business after nearly 80 years of service.

Last updated: September 16, 2015